I’m cleaning the refrigerator when I notice there’s a bunch of hairy blue spots on my black olives. Is that natural or is it possible that they’re going bad? I didn’t even know olives could go bad; I thought they were preserved practically forever in vinegar and salt. Can vinegar and salt go bad? If the stuff that’s on the olives is edible and thrives in a vinegar and salt marinade, NASA could probably culture it to feed to Martian colonists someday. In the pursuit of scientific discovery, I ought to eat one olive to find out. If I die, then I’ll know.
Spring has always been the traditional time to clean up, but this year, spring was late, and so my annual clean-up has also been delayed. I dealt with the formerly frozen dog turds of winter when they finally resurfaced, but not all the projects that reappeared: the rusted tools lying by the back door, the wheelbarrow with the flat tire, the bicycle that I started taking apart before the first storm hit and is still right where I left it, except for the little gears and ball bearings that I put in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose them. Five months later, they’re as likely to be in the container with the blue-spotted olives as anywhere else I can think to search for them.
But I’ll leave that for later, because there are so many other things to clean up. Relationships that have gone stagnant, for example. I’ve been meaning to call Jack for weeks but somehow keep forgetting. His house burned down, his wife left him, and the last time we talked, he said he was spending the night in a camper in the Walmart parking lot. I suppose he might appreciate an invite to Sunday brunch.
I also need to clean up from the birthday party we had yesterday, where I played a game of musical chairs and got totally winded. That’ll teach me to try to out-compete five-year-olds. It would be bad to die from being the winner of a game of musical chairs. But my memory isn’t as clean as it once was, either. I keep forgetting I’m not five anymore, or I see somebody I’ve met a dozen times before and totally blank out on her name or even how it is I know her. She looks familiar and she is at the party that I’m hosting, so I probably invited her. Or could she possibly have spotted the cluster of balloons on the porch and just wandered in off the street looking for free birthday cake? Maybe every time I’ve met this woman, it’s been at a party where she wanders in looking for free cake. Wait a second, she’s my dental hygienist! I just didn’t recognize her without her lab coat and a length of dental floss in her hands.
Company coming over is a good excuse to clean up the house. For example, whose pile of clothes is that in the corner? It’s been there for weeks and nobody has taken ownership of it, and it seems unlikely anyone ever will. I might as well sort through it and see if I can identify any of the items, or at least throw them in a laundry basket to put through the wash, and then take the basket downstairs to stick in a corner with all the other baskets of unclaimed, unsorted clothes. Unfortunately, I can’t find a laundry basket; they’re all being used, all twelve of them. Maybe I’ll go up to the store and buy a couple more as they seem to come in handy for storing things.
I should clean up my finances, too. I had to file for an extension on my taxes this year because all I had ready for my accountant was a pile of unsorted bills, receipts, and my son’s unfinished math assignments thrown in a laundry basket by my office desk. I wonder if I can write off cleaning supplies? I think yes if I’m cleaning my office, but no if I’m cleaning my living room, so probably I should only clean my office, because I can save more money that way. Also, I can write off meals if I’m having meetings to discuss cleaning business, but not if I’m having an argument about my messes with my wife, so it’s much more economical to eat out with my lawyer or accountant. Except that they charge me by the hour to argue with them, whereas my wife does it for free, so I’ll probably need to do a complete cost/benefit analysis before I make any reservations. Maybe tomorrow.
All this cleaning up has gotten me to realize I smell terrible, and the next thing I’d better clean up is me. If I clean myself for business, can I write off the cost of cleaning? I don’t see why not. I’m going to get the nicest French shea butter soaps and shampoos and loofah sponges and get spiffed up. I’ll also get my teeth cleaned, my hair cut, my face exfoliated, my shoes polished, my dog debugged, my carpets steamed, my refrigerator defrosted, my trees pruned, my money spent, my to-do list lost.